Tuesday – sightseeing in Baku

We had a lazy start to the day. It was raining. Not what we are used to and Keith had left his wet weather gear on the truck and we had no access to it. As the rain showed no sign of stopping we set out, bought him a jacket and then went to revisit the old town. This time with a guide and a camera!

Baku really is a fascinating place and our guide, Raphael, brought it to life for us. We started with the Maiden’s Tower which was apparently at one stage on the edge of the sea. It’s dimensions are amazing – 5 metres thick and 28 metres high. It has been used as safe haven, a defence, a light house and an observatory. It’s top is also now at sea level so the whole of current Baku lies below sea level!

The tower is built of the local limestone, as is much of the old city. There is evidence of a church beside the tower. Azerbaijan was one of the first countries to be converted to Christianity. The name Azerbaijan means ‘land of fire’ and before Christianity the people were fire worshippers.

Of the 90 million Azerbaijani people living in Azerbaijan, 30 million live in Baku. 45 million Azerbaijanis live in Iran. Another result of the moving borders issue. Oil was discovered in Azerbaijan in the 1800’s but they have exhausted the oil to be found on land and their oil now comes from under the Caspian Sea.

The Palace that we had already visited was part of the tour and a lot of new things became clear. For instance, In the courtyard of the domed palace there are a large number of stone slabs with Arabic writing on them. They were apparently rescued from the large castle now under the sea in the bay. They are incredibly well preserved, given that they were under the sea for many hundreds of years. The palace itself is lovely. Built in the sandy limestone of the area it has many rooms and a large bathhouse built on the side. At one point there is an amazing view of the palace mosque with the huge fins of the new city behind it. Old meets new Baku style!

In the old city square there is as sculpture of a famous poet and philosopher of the region. It is the work of three sculptors and at close range his hair is comprised of all sorts of figures and activity associated with his writing. Fascinating!

After several hours of his time, Raphael left us to have his lunch and wandered outside of the old city walls to find somewhere to eat ourselves. We found ourselves in fountain square a large garden area with lots of trees and, as it name implies, lots of fountains. Lunch eaten we strolled back to the hotel. It was still drizzly and overcast, so it was blogging time for the Gregory’s. It was good to have time to catch up and reflect on the last few days.

Sadly we also learned that one of our party had been taken into hospital with tummy problems. It was one of our lovely Australian ladies. We were very concerned for her. Hopefully there will be better news soon.

We strolled out again in the evening by ourselves and after a light supper returned for an early night, we take off again tomorrow and it is a bush camp overnight.

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